Sunday, August 2, 2015

To All the Boys I've Loved Before by Jenny Han

Amazon Description: Lara Jean’s love life goes from imaginary to out of control in this heartfelt novel from the New York Times bestselling author of The Summer I Turned Pretty series.

What if all the crushes you ever had found out how you felt about them…all at once?

Lara Jean Song keeps her love letters in a hatbox her mother gave her. They aren’t love letters that anyone else wrote for her; these are ones she’s written. One for every boy she’s ever loved—five in all. When she writes, she pours out her heart and soul and says all the things she would never say in real life, because her letters are for her eyes only. Until the day her secret letters are mailed, and suddenly, Lara Jean’s love life goes from imaginary to out of control.

My Review: Sweet and simple. That's the best way I can describe this book, and you know what? I really liked it. I didn't expect to; I was initially put off by the juvenile-sounding title. But I gave it a chance and I'm really glad I did because it was CUTE! And sometimes cute is what you need. 

To clarify: it's not the book I expected it to be. Not sure if this is a spoiler...but the mailed-out letters actually played less of a plot than I'd expected them to. I was anticipating some sort of mad rom-com caper with seven different guys giving Lara Jean issues. That's not really what happened. Honestly, only like TWO of her letters even made a huge impact on her story, but...okay, whatever. I still liked the story, so I'm not too bothered.

A lot of people have said they can't stand Lara Jean because she was too babyish, too innocent, too "dumb"... I disagree. Was she innocent and naive and trusting and girlish? Yes. Was she childish and hopeful and sweet? Yes. Does that mean she should be hated, or even disliked? Not in my opinion. I feel like, as a society, we've become so used to disillusionment and cynicism and nihilism and jaded attitudes...that we feel like someone has to be kind of dark and gritty to have depth. That someone has to face the harsh, cold winter of life and suffer through the disappointing realities, blah blah blah. You feel me? 

And while that's all true sometimes—and those characters definitely should exist—I feel like we've forgotten how to value innocence. It's ironic that people disliked Lara Jean for being too innocent and childish, when society continuously degrades teenage girls when they try to act mature and adult—and degrades teenagers in general when they try to act jaded and world-weary. I mean, can a young person (especially a young girl!) ever really win? 

I thought Lara Jean's innocence was cute and refreshing. She was hopeful and nice. She valued her family and what's more, she really LIKED her family (which is rare in books). Maybe she wasn't as worldly or experienced or mature as other teenagers might be, but guess what? Innocent teenagers exist! Naive teenage girls who wear lavender sweaters and bake cupcakes at home on Friday nights exist! And I liked her. She was cute and funny and endearing.

The story itself was cute, as well. I loved getting to know all the Song girls and their dad. Jenny Han did a good job making the family feel three dimensional. I especially liked Kitty Song; that girl needs a book dedicated to her when SHE'S a teenager, because you just know she's going to have some stories to tell. The plot was very light and slow-paced; nothing overly dramatic happened but I was still happy to enjoy the light, breezy ride anyway. Lara Jean's and Peter's banter was adorable and I really came to like Peter K. I'll admit that there was nothing in this book to make me ADORE it the way I do some books...but I felt good while reading the book. I liked reading about Lara Jean's friends and family, her romantic struggles, her clothing choices, her entire life. It wasn't exactly an escapist beach read because it did touch on some sadder subjects, but it was definitely a feel-good novel that was giggly and sweet.

My only complaint is that it ended VERY abruptly. So abruptly that I was actually pretty startled and wondered for a moment if my book was missing some pages. However, there's a sequel out, so I'm not too bothered by the ending anymore! 

Cover: IT'S SO CUTE. I know I keep using that word in connection with this book but it's true! It's so pretty! The model is so cute and I love the bedroom in the background, it's so airy and light... It's one of the nicer YA covers I've seen in a while.  

Overall Grade: B+

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